Monday, February 19, 2018

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Belly fat: why even yogis have it and what to do

Belly fat is the very devil. It makes u feel bad. Its as if it implies u are not being disciplined about your food or your health or your exercise. Its not so much about how it makes u feel ugly. Its really about making u look bad as a person. The implication of belly fat bothers many of us I think. Its demotivating also ..especially if u are trying stuff u have been trying efficiently for years but now see that these same tricks are not yielding the right results.  So I too have a yo -yo relationship with this despite my vigorous approach to health.

These are things I have noticed about belly fat..after 50s ..that may help u too, whatever your age:

* It becomes exaggerated when u are stressed. The correlation beteeen stress and belly fat has been well we need to de-stress with a firm intent. Funny books or movies. Cooking good food. Art and craft and hobbies. And a regular workout. They elevate your mood and release stress.

* Have a dynamic workout. Interval training..short bursts of exercise followed by relaxing stretches..even for 10 / 20 minutes thrice weekly will have immediate impact. This is a new breakthrough but entire researches and books vouchfor it. So do I.

* Diet is the key. U have to consult a professional if needed but do it so u feel the impact immediately. Trying something that works for your friend may not be the right answer for your body type.

* With yoga lose belly fat ..incorporate dynamic sequences and flows( as shown in video). Dynamic poses are more challenging and burn more fat especially at the belly and thighs.


Monday, January 15, 2018

Yogic eye exercises: its about the cosmic vision

I have these Buddha eyes all around my spaces ..whether it is my home or my work space. Something about the brilliance of trataka/ eye exercises infuses itself through them to me.

Its amazing that despite all the drama and fervour over yoga not many classes or teachers encourage its practice. All that I  know of this I know from the Bihar school of yoga books.

I was browsing  a Hatha Yoga Pradipika translation by Sw Muktibodhananda and rediscovered its magic.

According to the author Swatmarama trataka not only sorts eye problems but also removes  "fatigue, sloth".  But even more, according to the translator it awakens the susushmna nadi ..the  spiritual consciousness. It can even arouse clairvoyance, telepathy, telekinesis and psychic healing. Clearly for such states to be created the practice must be intense.  Done at brahmamuhurta ..the time of the divine ..4 to 6 am.

Perhaps because of such powers it was always meant to be a secret practice . 

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

How not to be a wind bag

When u are a woman over forties u learn that when  the guys are hitting on u their strategy has changed: they will start talking to u about their "gas" problems,  in detail. This may include intimate details about the timing, the exact nature of attack and will wind  up with a heartbreaking ( they believe­čÖä) request for some solution from u. Why they think its going to make them attractive to u is a big puzzle. But its amazing how odd it is that they combine this with their bid to flirt with u.  Its galling but there it is. And as an yoga instructor I always have some solution handy but we can bet on it they are not going to follow it at all. Because they have now entered an age themselves where they believe being flatulent is part of their attraction­čśë.

But if u want to be less windy here are some tricks.  Apart from the more common ones like the wind-release pose ( pawan muktasana) whose name makes the powerful impact it has.

In yoga several poses make you look up..between the eyebrows. ( eg Cat Stretch/ marjariasana and all of the prone backbends) We all know it impacts  the pineal gland..psychic third eye. But whie reading the book  Gut by Giulia Enders I read that sitting straight and looking up gives the gargly oesophagus a powerful stretch that can iron out burps and stuff.  And in the same book I was astonished to learn her suggestion that lying on your left side can help the metabolism in such a fashion as to make u feel less heavy after a meal. This is what the marvellous branch of swar yoga offers. Its mindblowing to see how yogis had  cracked these hidden secrets of the body ..secrets that I doubt even many modern day doctors  are aware of.

Any case u know now how to be less windy ...and what to tell old flatulent men when they hit on u­čśü

To sum up: looking upwards relieves gas.
Lying on your left side if feeling "heavy". 

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Age erase, with oats

Yoga ia very ritualistic about personal care. Its sister science Ayurveda has elaborate advice on the type of massage oils / powders each ayurvedic dosha must use. I have super books on this by Dr David Frawley and Harish Johari. 
This one I stumbled recently.. I have been breaking fast every morning with a bland bowl of oats relieved by seeds and dried fruits. I would convince myself that horses look superb ..with rippling muscles and great overall tone, thanks to their oats diet! But oats is more than great food..its a marvellous skin care product. Here is what I 
discovered : 
*That oats make great face masks. *They are anti-wrinkle. *They brighten skin. * Exfoliate..remove dead skin. *Tighten pores. *Have stuff ( saponins)  that acts like natural soap and remove grime from inside the pores. * Lots of fats to remove dryness. * Lots of other natural moisturizing agents. 

Basically it depends on what you mix with the oats ..honey or milk or powdered sunflower seeds or almonds or lime juice ..The oats must be softened by puttibg it in a blender. 

Each of the secondary ingredient 
adds its own goodness. If u search online ..on valid sites ..u will find lots of skin care recipes.  So I am not giving u that. Its better you choose according to your skin care needs. I did my own pack by blending oats with sesame oil and rose water as a bath scrub. Feel spanking clean, I must say.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Indian toilet is yoga!

This rivetting book Gut by Giulia Endes notes that in cultures where u need to squat while defecating has less incidence of haemorrhoids and diverticula. And also less of problems that come from exerting while defecating ( which happens in Western style toilets) like varicose veins, stroke and defecation syncope ..fainting on the toilet!
The author has a suggestion on how to mimic the impact of the Indian style squat while excreting. " Just incline your upper body forward slightly and place your feet on a low footstool placed in front of the toilet.."

She cites research by Israeli Dr Dov Sikirov who studied the impact of position u hold while excreting. Those who squatted reported emptying bowels most satisfactorily and in as less as 50  seconds. Not surprisingly those who sat took almost twice the time and unsatisfactorily. Another Japanese research also found tge squatting position appeared to give a clear route for bowels to empty.
It appears that some practices are rejected just because they are ancient ( the author's observation, not mine) and new ones are seen as modern and thetefore more hygienic ( despite contrary evidence). 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Youthfulness is about your nerves

Biologists are still trying to find the elixir of youth. For some,  like Dr Elizabeth Blackburn, its a mission. If u read her books you get a clear idea that a virile mind ..which is connected to the rest of your body a great way to maintai├▒ youthfulness. 
The nerves are how your body tunes in to who u are.  Their vitality is important. This pose here called namaskaranasana ( prayer pose) is not only intensely challenging at a physical level but also "excites" the nerves all over the body. Nerves in all the limbs are set off positively. 
And that difficult joint..the hips ..become stronger and more flexible. After 50s strong hips could mean longevity, youthful mobility and a better quality of life.  
  The chest also opens and collapses in a manner as to strengthen it and release hidden tensions. And the neck is also toned.  The neck a metaphysical level..  .often   collapses at the slightest hint of conflict or stress. 
And I cannot  help but  to point out that to execute this pose you need strong knees and ankles and an  ability to squat low.  In what I call the Indian toilet squat..but more on that later. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Heartily healthy! Easy way to sort your heart

When I started yoga I was completely overwhelmed  by the science behind yogic practices. And the branch of mudra yoga was one of those things that mesmerised me. Despite a lot of spiritual and religious significance to mudras they are really based on the science of neurological brain map of body parts. I do not want to get into this but have written a lot on it. All of my ─║inks on this was drawn primarily by the wisdom of  Swami Satyanandaji's writings.
This mudra shown here ..was amongst the first one I learnt. Its also called hridaya mudra, amritsanjeevani mudra. These names suggest the significance of this mudra.

It is believed regular practice of this can even help avert a heart attack. It can make the heart strong. And control heart problems

And only recently I learnt that this can  even help in emotional problems, specifically dealing with heart-related ones.

For real impact u need to hold the mudra at least for 30 minutes. U can manage this by using it while meditating or doing pranayama.  Or even while watching TV.

If u have high blood pressure, ├žirculatory problems, heart-related issues or a broken heart ...this is the mudra for u. 

Why we resist grounding, healing yoga?

Its that time of the year when people resolve to be regular in their yoga practice. Interestingly the ones who need the grounding and healing of a regular practice will resist it the most. Its as if people do not want be grounded ( a lot of those in the creative field possibly fear that being grounded will strip them of the freedom to be outre!?!). And some who need healing but get attention through their sicknesses ..they too do not want to be healed. So they have a hydra-headed approach to yoga. For long I too resisted standing poses because even more than the inversions they are the  most healing and grounding. Also who wants to feel foolish, shaky, incompetent doing poses that look easy but are ao difficult? Often this is the rite of passage you need to pass before a pose falls in place. But these I am enchanted by the standing balancers. And find another area of my mind open up that was closed to me before. #vrkasana #treepose #standingbalance #yogaforoverthe50s #yogisofinstagram #yogis #yoginis #fabfifties #yogalove #yogachic #bohoyoga #yogibhogirogi #fitness #yogaismorethanasana #grounding #healing #yogawarrior#yogalove

Monday, December 25, 2017

Why your hips affect your moods?

Hips don't lie, apparently­čśëFlexibility of the hips combined with their strength has a lot to do with your moods. That is because your uro- genital system is stacked up in that region of your hips. And much of what you feel is just the right cocktail mix of chemicals, hormones and neurotransmitters.  A hug. A kiss.  The safety of a nest or a home. Curiosity. Sense of adventure. Keenness to learn. Looking ahead.  Planning for the future. A  sense of purpose. Infatuation. Love. Parental love. All of these come from stuff released or related to the reproductive system like oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine .

This may explain even criminal activity ..because some of the actions the criminals  indulge in is an attempt to tap into the high these chemicals release.

It is a complicated loop. And these feelings decide our sense of being. And well-being.

That is why in yoga u can relieve a bad mood by doing the right poses ..many related in helping blood flow to the uro-genital region and can be less complicated than indulging in dangerous or criminal or addictive activity!
This pose ..called hindolasana ..or the baby cradle pose a super hip- opener.
It is a must-do pose to create overall flexibility too. And helps ease the difficulty in backbends.

And hip strength is one of the most important requisite for youthfulness ..which explains why many dance styles have exaggerated moves to highlight hip health dramatically.

In later lives a hip complication can take longer to heal, if at all. It is important to invest a few minutes in such poses daily to continue having a robust life.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Glow face: easily and inexpensively

Even practitioners who do not do stunts on the mat ..they look far younger than their non-practicising counterparts . Often these easy poses are more impactful because they have less contraindications. And they work because they activate powerful acupressure points.

All forward bends are said to keep your skin glowing. Simple, Watson­čśëIts because these poses make your face flushed with blood.

How do u glow with this pose?

* Major acupressure points at the navel are activated for relieving  water retention. One of the reasons there are those ugly pouches in the face ..due to sluggish release of water logged in the tissue.

* More blood to the brain and face

* Releases anger ..and anger makes u old and ugly­čśë

* Removes stress ( the stress glands at your lower back get a firm massage) . Stress makes u old and sad-ugly. ­čśë

* Promotes digestion all the nutrients are rightly absorbed. Skin needs a lot of maintenance and repair that is supported by your food.

* Enhances deep breathing.  And good breathing is  ABSOLUTELY essential for youthful skin.

* Impacts your uro-genital system ..which deals with your moods and hormones..both super important contributors  towards skin glow.

* A huge acupressure point at the buttocks called vajra nadi is activated deals with the repairing systems of the body.

This pose is called balasana ( child pose). There are similar poses with different arm positions..which have similar impact ( shashankasana/ hare pose).

In case u have  a knee problem u can keep a cushion under the knees. In case u can't touch forehead to ground also a cushion is a good prop.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

You are your stomach!

The prayer we say at our ashram before a meal sums this up: what is offered is god. Brahmarpanam ..If u are what eat and what u eat is god, the fire on which the offering is made is also god. Brahmahavir..U get the general idea of where we are headed..that your gut is god.

The mind is given the halo. But we forgot biologically the brain was solely created to get us food and prevent us from becoming another creature's food. That later the brain evolved enough to forget its own humble origins or to discuss quantum physics is the subject of another post.

But suffice to say the gut is a very powerful organ. So powerful that it can make decisions that bypass the brain.  Has an exclusive hotline to the brain called the gut-brain axis. And it can release hormones that can subvert those released by the rest of the body's juices.

And this system is host to several armies of microorganisms that have their control panels.

So keeping your stomach healthy is crucial for every part of who u are.
This pose called jatharagniasana ( abdominal fire pose) or udharakarshanasana ( abdominal stretch pose). Like I say u will find several tutorials for it online. U can keep knees down as well. Or lean on a wall. If knees gives u troubleu can sit on a chair to modify the pose.

Strength vs Flexibility

The other terms of strength versus flexibility ..lies in the fabric of your muscles. The more elastic  muscle is the slow twitch muscle is red in colour. And it is that way because it allows the passage of air, nutrients and repairing agents faster into your body. It is also an endurance muscle. The fast-twitch muscle are shorter, tighter and oriented for speed. So it teally is a matter of developing the right balance in your body. We can discuss later on why flexibility as opposed to strength has its downside soon. This version of the #prishtasana #lizardpose looks complicated and/or tough. It is neither. Easy really.  #Merry x'mas
 #yogaforoverthe50s #yogisofinstagram #yogis #yoginis #fabfifties #yogalove #yogachic #bohoyoga #yogibhogirogi #fitness #yogaismorethanasana #yoga #yogateacher #yogadaily #yogalife

Friday, December 22, 2017

Executive stretch: heart-healthy

It was discovered that music conductors lived for  long and lived well because their profession made them wave their hands high above their hearts. This pose ..called tadasana / mountain pose or palm pose mimics that effect.

Another aftershoot of this pose: it prevents age-related shrinkage of tissue. We lose height as we age ..due to gravity. This pose fights it.

One of the least contraindicated of all poses. And one with maximum health benefits.

And it can help u reach the muc-coveted lotus pose.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Freshen up in a jiffy: simhagarjasana or lionroaring pose

Not as easy it has it looks. Yet not as tough as the other more exotic poses. Its a great healer. If u have fever it can bring it down. Still dry out a bad cold. It has a similar impact on blood pressure: elevating it if low and lowering it if high.

Other fun things it does:
* sweetens voice
* great for singers
* removes wrinkles
* removes dullness
* powers all your sense organs
* builds confidence
* therapy for social phobia
* controls stuttering

Minimum five times, anytime, daily

Instructions are avsilable all over the net. If there are variations do not panic . Each school has a slightly different method but all lead up to the same benefits.  Some schools call it the Narsimhasana

I am going to doing more on this practice  by and by .

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Yoga is the cure

I want longer arms. A rubber spine. I want to stand   on  one big toe, and  for 100 years. But actually all those foolish dreams apart I fell in love with yoga because it cured me of a chronic childhood bronchitis. So when I am  not foolishly dreaming of a rubber spine,  I only want to do yoga so the  deadly cough  does not to come back. But once in six months or so it can rear its head ( where earlier it would be with me almost daily) so as to act   as  a reminder. Even if it racks  me ( for a shorter duration due to yoga) its more as a call to get back with more sincerity on the mat. Reminds me of the Chinese proverb: No disease short life. One disease long life. U can substitute the word #life for #yoga and it makes sense even more. #viparitadandasana #upwardrodpose #yogaeverydamnday #yogadaily #yogini #yogibhogirogi #yogalife #yogaliving #yogalove #yoga #yogaforoverthe50s #yogateacher #yogacure

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Living in a place where you are not happy can make you old!

When I was a kid, we were the first family to move into the street of a new suburb. Other houses sprung up around us. So, by the time the street filled up, we knew all the families. It is a reassuring thing. When any festival happened, every family would send out a plate of special goodies to the others in the streets. We did not party together. But I guess we were  a community. And a good one at that.

As a college kid, when I came home late -- and in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, night falls early, it would not be so scary to walk down a badly lit street, because you had the sense you could run into any home for help. Subsequently, the suburb has changed. Small houses have been replaced by highrises. The roads are more well-lit. But I have not gone back since I left it, because I fear I may not feel as safe as I did when I was a kid.

Here is what the famous biologist Elizabeth Blackburn says about how neighbourhoods can affect us.
"Communities where people do not trust one another, and where they fear violence, are damaging to *telomere heath. But neighbourhoods that feel safe and look beautiful -- with leafy trees and green parks -- are related to longer telomeres, no matter what the income and education level of their residents."
(*Telomeres are ends of chromosomes. They begin to shrink,  aging the rest of us and our bodies, from inside)

More exciting thoughts on how your neighbourhood can accelerate your aging: 
* Being stuck in a neghbourhood from which you want to move but cannot afford to

*Living in spaces where the crime rate is high 

*Disorderly neighbourhoods 

* Unsafe neighbourhoods 

* Neighbourhoods without social cohesion 

* Without green spaces 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Fast route towards youthfulness

The new buzz word is autophagy. It sort of means your cells eat themselves -- a sort of cannibalistic behavior of the cells post exercise or fasting, that actually benefits the organism as a whole.

In exercise, the cells are damaged. And this release an activity called autophagy, which is set off to clear up cell debris, and this in turn helps rejuvenate the cells. Interestingly fasting appears to have a similar regenerative impact on the brain. 

And it is not just cell regeneration but also helps heal or control --  cancer, neurodegeneration, cardiomyopathy, diabetes, liver disease, autoimmune diseases and infections (according to a study).

Just how much is too much, in terms of exercise? Or how do you modulate your fasting?  I find these concerns are pretty well-managed by alternative therapies. As far as yoga is concerned, as a daily practitioner I can vouch for the fact that nothing is too much, and your body progressively gets used to more demand on it. It responds by having less hunger. Unlike after a gym round, after a yoga session your hunger actually gets depressed. It is an interesting phenomenon. Automatically induces less eating, thereby inviting a natural fasting that helps the mind stay fresh too. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Practical meditation techniques to prevent cellular aging

No research on aging is complete without some amount of fund and fuss spent on meditation and its values. It is intriguing just how many very clinical tests have taken this spiritual and psychic aspect to see if it has any impact on your body. And for a large part, there has been a resounding,"Yes." 

For some reason, and I would think simply because they are more organised that way, most meditators subjected to scrutiny have been Tibetan monks. 

So, this very intense book on this form of meditation, The Tibetan book of the Dead, translated by Robert A.F. Thurman, has simple tips on how to go about meditation.

There is a lot of resistance to meditation, including from those who do related activity like yoga. And even those who meditate have different ideas or conclusions about it. And in fact, most people who meditate love nothing better than share the intense experiences they have while meditating. 

I myself am very embarrassed to discuss my meditation practice with anybody, simply because it is very intimate and often not conclusive. It will always be a work in progress. 

So, I was rather enchanted by this para in this book: 
"Another kind of daily-activity meditation is the conscious association of an ordinary activity with a spiritual practice. When you wash dishes, associate their cleansing with clearing away mental addictions, making their washing into a prayer. When you build a building, associate it with building a pure land mandala. When you observe a person in the subway, associate the encounter with  being there for him, when you are a Buddha. When you open a door, associate it with opening the door to enlightenment." 

I think most of us have demarcated the humdrum from the sublime. And we want to finish with the boring, to rush to the exciting. The suggestion above however is for making the humdrum sublime. And there may be something huge there.  

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Herbs to preserve youthfulness

My favorite ayurvedic master is Dr David Frawley. And I swear by him, for a lot of healing with food.

I like his take on the Vanaprastha and Sannyasa stages of life. (Vanaprastha from 50 to 75 years) and Sannyasa from (75 to 100 years).

In this book Ayurvedic Healing, he says the last stages of our life determines our next birth, and so it is very important part of our whole lives! Interesting thought.

The dominant element during this stage is vata. And imagine for a high vata person like me, how much more discomfiting!  I have to practically deal with a double whammy.

Vata is most soothed by oils.

Massages, massages, massages.

Lots of medicated ghee. Mmm, I like ghee. Overall lubrication, soothing the vata element.

Chyavan Prash : youthfulness and rejuvenation.  This is easily available.

Brahmarasayana (for memory).

Gotu kola -- to improve hearing.

Ashwagandha -- for rejuvenation.

Guggul: For arthritic joints

Shatavari - for women's health issues

With all these easily available, it is a sin not to take care of your health. However, you need to consult an expert as to which of the above you need.

I love this paragraph: "In India, the later years are considered to be the appropriate season of life for spiritual growth, the time when worldly obligations to work and family are completed and when the soul naturally begins to long for the transcendent. The body matures around the age of 21 but the mind does not mature until the age of 30. The soul, however, does not mature until the age of fifty, when the higher aspect of our lives truly begins. For this reason, the time after the age of fifty is the most important for spiritual growth."

Yes, yes. I agree with that totally!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

4 yoga practices for daily youthfulness

Ayurveda is married to yoga intrinsically. And of all the alternative medicines, I believe in ayurveda the most. Some ayurvedic masters straddle the wisdom of both sciences by seeing the idea of elements in these practices.

While scanning this book Ayurveda and Panchakarma, by Dr Sunil Joshi, I found this reference to yoga, which as an intstructor, caught my eye.

He recommends sun salute and pranayama. But amongst all the asanas and kriyas , he recommends these four the most:

*Locust / Salabhasana
*  Energy-release pose /dwipada supta pawanmuktasana
* Cobra/ Bhujangasna
* Uddiyana bandha

If you are a yoga instructor, you will find the connecting link in all these practices? Your gut, your belly, your digestion. Your second brain.

Dr Joshi observes that"Charaka has mentioned that to use yoga along with panchakarmas therapy eliminates disease."

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Feelings that age you

I feel therefore I am. Nobody said that. But everybody lives that!

So, feelings come with a strong sense of rightfulness. If you feel it, it must be right. The interesting thing, for meditators, is that they realise that there are so many feelings all tangled up, that there is never an absolute truth about this thing.

The more you meditate the more clarity comes through, that what you feel is not necessarily the right thing. This may take a while to get through, when things crush your heart. But if you are a true meditator you know this "Aha" moment also comes through. It is perhaps as close as you can get to mokhsha, that everybody talks in abstruse terms.

Elizabeth Blackburn, biologist, who apparently got funding rejected from a government agency because it clashed with orthodox religious beliefs (yes, they belong to all hues:) is into studying longevity.

And this absolutely riveting book she has written, called the Telomere Project opens your eyes to the idea of how and why we age, and what we may do to delay it.

She lists a few patterns of thinking that actually have been shown to accelerate aging in your mind. If you see the list, u will feel, as I do, that somewhere sometime we have all succumbed to this because we have been told that our feelings are guideposts. Or that because you feel so strongly about something, you have to coast along, and suffer it.

Here is her list, in a nutshell (and you must read her book, written for the layperson) to find out how to stop it. Very practical book:

* Thought suppression
* Rumination (loopy thinking)
* Negative thinking
* Cynical hostility
* Pessimism

What are the physical symptoms of all this, which causes cell aging?

* higher stress hormones
* exhaustion of the systems dealing with stress
* faster progress of disease
* Digestive system collapse

Monday, July 24, 2017

Vajrasana: best bet for soothing your belly

The gut is like a baby. A neglected baby. Or overindulged one. Either way, it suffers a lot I would guess.

So, amongst the multiple books I tend to read at the same time -- and somehow they take me right back to yoga - I am reading this one called Gut, by Giulia Enders. Everybody must read this book to ensure you are not tripped by this "second brain" inside of you.

She talks of the gut like a living entity. Which it is. It was the original animal around which you were created, your brain included. And that never fails to marvel me. Because even the smartest person, is tripped by the gut, because it is the older of the two.

So, Enders says the gut has a very "gargly" appearance, created out of evolutionary wisdom. And for me. this fact links up to yoga with this pose Vajrasana, which is used as a cure-all for all gut related problems. And it is the only other  asana recommended (and supta vajrasana /lying thunderbolt is another one) after a meal.

Here is what Enders says about your gut:
The "gargly" appearance of the oesophagus is also more beautiful than it seems at first glance. Looking very closely, it can be seen that some muscle fibers run around the oesophagus in a spiral pattern. They are the reason for its "gargly" motion.If you extend these fibers lengthways, they constrict spirally like telephone receiver cable. Bundles of fibres connect the oesophagus to the spinal column. Sitting up straight and looking upward stretches the oesophagus along its length. This causes it to narrow in turn allowing it to close more efficiently at each end. That is why sitting or standing up straight can help prevent heartburn after a large meal."

Wow, like I always wonder our yogis knew of these hundreds of